The Clean Air Act’s History and Background

Paper Info
Page count 9
Word count 2452
Read time 9 min
Topic Law
Type Essay
Language 🇺🇸 US


Background and History of the Clean Air Act

The atmosphere is a very crucial component when it comes to supporting human existence. Based on the environmental situation in the past four decades, human beings and even scholars have acknowledged the impact that pollution can have on the air that they inhale. Contaminated gases such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) among other particles that find their way into the environment because of energy production, industrial operations, and the amplified number of automobiles have had severe health and environmental impacts.

The above health issues led to the need to establish policies that could address the subject of air pollution. According to Cass (2015), at the beginning of the 12th-century, various scholars from London, including King Edward, campaigned for the need to prohibit the utilization of sea coal in the country following the harmful gases (smoke) that is released into the atmosphere. With this foundation, extra attempts were made in England to cut down the number of harmful gases. However, America first realized the need to address the impact of pollutants on the atmosphere during the industrial era (Bredenberg 2011). As a result, the dawn of the 1880s saw states such as Chicago implement clean air policies. In the course of the 1940s, Los Angeles among other states experienced severe cases of smog. The situation pushed the need to have an Act that could address the issue from the countrywide level. Within three decades, the US legislative body enacted the Clean Air Act (CAA) in 1970 to handle the effects of air degradation, which had caused serious contamination to the environment.

Air contamination caused serious respiratory problems to the exposed organisms. This Act was meant to prevent the effects caused by air pollution around the country since they (effects) in turn influenced the US GDP. It was tasked with governing the level of toxins released by factories. In most cases, such toxins from factories and industries are odorless and colorless. Hence, they can easily be inhaled and ingested. The Act ensures that these industries do not endanger the lives of the citizens. The paper presents the Act’s goals and objectives before giving a review of literature, analysis, and possible recommendations concerning the Act.

Goal and Objectives

The CAA was devised to control and ensure that companies consider the effects of toxins on the environment. The Act ensures that companies, industries, and factories understand their ethical duties to the public and the atmosphere in general. The Clean Air Act seeks to safeguard human life at all times. Industries have the task of following the rules and regulations laid down by the CAA. Companies that are found in violation of the Clean Air Act risk being be closed down or incurring heavy fines. However, even with the dedication that the CAA officials have to ensure that the environment is safe for people, industries that are located in marginalized communities are still emitting poisonous gases. Considering the high population in most of these communities, if nothing is done soon, the results can be catastrophic. Hence, the Act has the objective of ensuring that all industries are monitored countrywide.

Literature Review

Research by Shekhman (2015) shows that factories are given a free pass on the regulations to the extent that they emit dangerous gases that contain toxins, which harm not only people but also the environment. Hence, the authorities do not always inspect all factories to ensure that they comply with the Clean Air Act rules and regulations. When this situation happens, anyone who is exposed to the fumes emitted by these industries is at risk of suffering from serious ailments. Considering that most of these industries are set up close to minority and low-income earners, the affected communities cannot afford expensive medical care or the legal fees to sue these industries. The CAA seeks to protect the environment and citizens. However, as Shekhman (2015) reveals, the loopholes in it give room for persons to take advantage of it while evading any responsibilities for any harm. Most of these loopholes are witnessed when a factory or plant is suffering from malfunctions or in a crisis. The damage that such gaps cause to the environment is always irreparable. The released toxins stay in the atmosphere for some time, thus harming people and the environment.

As Fowler (2014) asserts, the value of Clean Air versus and its results are achieved in two angles. One side assumes that the results have been achieved without the federal, state, or any of the associations and regulations formed through and under the Clean Air Act. The other side bases its results on the historical impacts on the economy and the changes in the environment. Both angles have one thing in common: the benefits of the Act surpass the cost at which it has been implemented. Through the intervention of the lives that have been saved, mortality rates have been reduced. Besides, the productivity levels of employees have greatly improved to the extent of causing a shift in the revenue accrued. Fowler (2014) shows how the CAA has also improved agricultural harvests. The environment does not have toxins that affect the productivity of both crops and animals. The rate at which newborn babies were born with defects reduced. This outcome translated into improved infant mortality rates, and hence a sign that the Clean Air Act is effective. With the tidying up on the loopholes, more will be gained from the Act.

According to Kraft (2015), even though the CAA is doing a tremendous job in keeping the American environment clean, it does not control the industrial activities of other countries in the world. This claim suggests that since the inception of the Act in the 1970s and its revision in 1977, the Act has only focused on the US while neglecting the need for air pollution controls in other countries (Kraft 2015). These countries also have factories, firms, and other facilities that generate gases and fumes that are damaging to the economic and environmental potency. The CAA is meant to look at its wider scope to reach the global level. One of the motivating factors to achieve this end is to implement the Act from a mutually beneficial ground. The Clean Air Act should be implemented and signed into law in all countries around the world. Life is sacred. Hence, all nations should ensure that the lives of the citizens are protected.

The Clean Air Act has done everything within its legal rights to ensure that the lives of all Americans are safe. As Senkowsky (2001) observes, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) charged Volkswagen manufacturers for designing cars that do not support the regulations set against air pollution. The fumes emitted by these cars are intense to the level of posing serious health effects to people. The CAA has also regulated the amount of nitrogen gas that should be produced by machines and factories. This stipulation became an issue when the manufacturers of Volkswagen overlooked it in their designs that came out in 2016. These vehicles released an awful amount of unacceptable fumes that posed a threat to the surroundings. This requirement by the Act is a far-fetched step towards regulating the number of gases produced by automobiles. In fact, to date, all vehicle manufacturers ensure that their products adhere to the CAA laid down rules (Senkowsky 2001). Air pollution is more rampant in urban areas because of the more industrial and motor vehicle activities that happen in cities as compared to other areas. The only way through which urban residents can be protected is through the CAA requirement that no motor vehicles manufactured should emit dangerous and harmful fumes (Senkowsky 2001). Industries should also be inspected to determine their extent of abiding by the Clean Air Act rules.

At first, business people may regard the regulatory systems imposed on them as a bad move since they are required to spend an amount aside from the licenses and other annual documents on the business to keep the business afloat while observing the laws that control pollution (Behles 2015). While the move has a cost implication, which may be unavoidable, the businesses are preferably learning the act of preserving the environment and keeping it from being polluted. For the benefit of the business and the payback, in the end, the owners should adhere to the rules and regulations set because the environment where their businesses are located will be more conducive and appealing for them and their clients. In addition, Behles (2015) mentions the need for business owners to understand that they have an ethical responsibility to the community and that protecting the environment is one of them.

According to the Clean Air Act (2014), technology has helped to ensure that authorities monitor environmental conditions efficiently. Most regulations rely on the technology that is designed to serve the functions set. For example, most water-based pollution regulations are effected through technology since it acts as the most expedient method that the initiators choose (Clean Air Act 2014). A lot of money is spent on developing and testing various technological caches that support the cleansing of the environment and/or creating a more vibrant surrounding. However, critics such as Bredenberg (2011) argue on the availability of other alternative means towards curbing pollution. They maintain that billions of tax dollars spent can be put to better use such as creating fairly cheaper equipment for handling pollution and its regulations.


The CAA has been important to the US and its citizens since it has improved the quality of air and the safety of the entire environment. Significant progress has been achieved in the last few decades. In a few years, the issue of air pollution might be non-existed in the US. The CAA has created several job opportunities for Americans. The innovative ideas and the machines acquired have helped to create jobs and contract chances for the citizens. The scientists such as Senkowsky (2001) who were behind the innovations also benefited hugely from the remunerations of the machines, which were bought or constructed under the governments contracts.

The CAA has also reduced the mortality rates of children and the elderly. Since regulations were set and the pollutants that caused illnesses were eliminated or reduced to an insubstantial amount, children and elderly persons in the society were saved from premature deaths (Shekhman 2015). However, in unmonitored industries that are situated in poor communities, the citizens, especially children and the old people, are still struggling to survive the pollution state in their environs. Even though the CAA has done a tremendous job in a wider scope, it still has a lot of work to do in the marginalized and poor communities (Shekhman 2015). The Act has led to improved agricultural yields of cash crops that are specifically grown for export. Since no more toxins affect the environment, crops and animals can now produce abundantly. The increased regulation schemes have helped in creating more gains for farmers, especially from the exports they make. The Act has ensured that farmers and agricultural businesspeople maximize their profits.

The CAA has improved the rate at which air pollution occurs via car exhaust fumes and emissions (Kraft 2015). It has placed strict measures on the amount of harmful gas that a car is supposed to release into the air during operation. This requirement has improved the quality of air that people inhale in cities. Manufacturers have recalled many cars for redesigning with the aim of improving their exhaust systems. Pollution from car exhaust systems causes respiratory complications, which bring about diseases such as asthma and bronchitis.

Action Plan

The CAA needs to expand its area of operation to a global scale. Since global warming is an international issue, the CAA should not operate only in the US. However, it should work to improve the quality of air in other countries around the world. This action plan will make the CAA a more relevant and key player in the abolition of pollution in the whole world.

Innovation is an element of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which helps in driving the regulations. A commendable job has been achieved by the use of technology in curbing water pollution and sewerage treatments. While expertise is a useful element, technology costs a lot to make, replicate, and maintain in the end. This finding means that technology will consume a huge chunk of finances, thus making it less profitable. Hence, an approach to making use of alternative means of technologies, which are more cost-effective, will help in focusing funds on various institutions of the government that require it.

Strict measures against companies, factories, and plants that exhaust fumes should be implemented, especially the loopholes that the CAA contains. The CAA contains an ambiguity that suggests a free pass for emissions to be conducted during times when the plant is undergoing breakdowns of machinery and other malfunctions. This loophole should be removed since it creates room for more damages. The CAA has led to excellent results so far. Hence, it should keep the reputation by not giving room to any element that might ruin it in terms of the work that has been done for decades.


The CAA should remove all loopholes that pave a way to environmental degradation. From 1970, the purpose of the CAA was to improve the quality of air and the environment and, in turn, advance the living standards of the people, owing to their healthy surroundings. This status should be maintained at all cost. It should not only be focused on the US but also in all nations around the whole world. The CAA should expand its borders and collaborate with other authorities in other countries that head the environmental preservation ministry with the view of working together to improve the status of the environment and people. Machines that have been developed to reduce pollution, especially water pollution should be tested in various continents in the world to ascertain their effectiveness since different areas have diverse environmental conditionings.


The Clean Air Act remains an important entity that should always be supported to perform its functions. Although it has its faults and discrepancies, this paper has confirmed that a recommendable progress has been achieved since the inception of the Act. A long way has been traversed to realize the excellent results. From 1970-2016, decades have passed, improvements have been made, and that more advancements are going to be achieved. The paper has recommended the need for collaboration between all governments in ensuring that the Act is followed everywhere around the globe. Such a strict adherence to the stipulations of the Act is expected to change the quality of the environment and consequently people’s health.


Behles, D 2015, ‘Controlling Ancillary Emissions Under the Clean Air Act: Consideration of Energy Storage as Best Available Control Technology’, Ecology Law Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 573-607.

Bredenberg, A 2011, The Clean Air Act – Was It Worth the Cost?.

Cass, O 2015, ‘Reform the Clean Air Act. (cover story)’, National Review, vol. 67, no. 4, pp. 31-34.

Clean Air Act 2014, ‘Stationary Source Greenhouse Gas Regulation — Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA’, Harvard Law Review, vol. 128, no. 1, pp. 361-370.

Fowler, L 2014, ‘Assessing the Framework of Policy Outcomes: The Case of the U.S. Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act’, Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy & Management, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 1-20.

Kraft, M 2015, Environmental Policy and Politics, Taylor & Francis, New York, NY.

Senkowsky, S 2001, ‘Strengthening Science at the Environmental Protection Agency’, BioScience, vol. 51, no. 9, pp. 708-708.

Shekhman, L 2015, Beijing Smog: What makes some Cities Cleaner than Others.

Cite this paper


EssaysInCollege. (2022, May 23). The Clean Air Act's History and Background. Retrieved from


EssaysInCollege. (2022, May 23). The Clean Air Act's History and Background.

Work Cited

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EssaysInCollege. (2022) 'The Clean Air Act's History and Background'. 23 May.


EssaysInCollege. 2022. "The Clean Air Act's History and Background." May 23, 2022.

1. EssaysInCollege. "The Clean Air Act's History and Background." May 23, 2022.


EssaysInCollege. "The Clean Air Act's History and Background." May 23, 2022.